You can look out at the landscape of eLearning tools and divide them into different categories in various ways. One way I like to categorize them is:

  • PowerPoint Add-in Tools
  • Installed Tools (not in PowerPoint)
  • Cloud-based Tools

Dividing up the tools this way leads to some natural similarities between the tools. PowerPoint add-in tools, for instance, all tend to add a menu ribbon. (Figure 1) Installed tools are usually more powerful than those in PowerPoint (though not always so). Cloud-based tools all share some of the same advantages (updates can happen more often than with installed tools, for instance) and the same disadvantages (for example, you have to have a good internet connection to use them).

Figure 1: All of the PowerPoint add-in tools add themselves to PowerPoint’s ribbon (click to enlarge)

Recently, I decided to compare the features in the PowerPoint add-in tools. Initially, I thought listing each feature, one per line, would result in a two or three page chart. Imagine my surprise when it reached 15 pages and it’s still not done. Regardless of that, some clear differences have been borne out of my research which I will present here. At the end, I’ll show you where you can sign up for a free copy of the chart updates as I complete them.

The six tools I have reviewed are:

Some may ask why I didn’t include another favorite tool of theirs. Usually, it’s because it’s not comparable to the ones shown here. Camtasia, for instance, is a great tool, but it’s not really a PowerPoint-based tool.

Looking at the ribbons in Figure 2, you can immediately note some similarities. Each shows an option to add a quiz, to record audio, and more. Just glancing at them, you can get a quick feel for the power of each tool, but beware because each can have more power hiding under the hood. For example, almost all of them have an option for adding interactivity but the number of interactions in each may be quite different.

Figure 2: The feature mix across all six tools (click to enlarge)

So where are the big differences?

Let’s start with price. All of the tools provide 30-day free trials, a great way to test them out before you decide which to purchase. Microsoft Mix is totally free if you own a Microsoft Office product. Table 1 is a breakdown of pricing.

Table 1: How the prices of all six tools compare1

1 All version comparisons are in the English versions of these tools. Some of these tools offer other language versions.

2 Some products offer versions with fewer features at a lower price. For instance, Zenler Studio Pro is $299 while Pro Plus is $699. Articulate Studio offers a version for $999 that does not include the Engage interactions.

3 Adobe Presenter’s subscription plan is $14.99 a month when you commit to a year, $24.99 a month if you want to stop the subscription at any time.

Price alone, however, doesn’t always mean much. Mix is free, but it doesn’t have any built-in interactions, nor does it offer many of the features you see in the other tools. However, if it meets your needs, why not use it? Articulate Studio is the most expensive, but it sells very well. It is well-built and has many fans, so just because it’s the most expensive isn’t stopping it from being a very popular tool.

Let me tell you what I like about each of these tools to help you know which might work best for you. I’ve summarized my thoughts in Table 2.

Table 2: Head-to-head comparisons

Adobe Presenter 10

What I Like

What I Don’t Like

1. The subscription price is phenomenal. What a deal!

2. If you have Captivate on your system, you can launch the software simulation features from within Presenter and make simulations part of your lesson.

3. Presenter has built-in scenes that are pretty cool.

4. Powerful collaboration and analytics are built in.

5. You can set up two different score ranges with destinations for each.

1. The interface for selecting characters to use as mentors or on-screen guides is not as slick as that in Articulate Studio.

2. More interactions would be very welcome.

3. It would be nice if we could annotate videos with a lot more options.

4. I would love to be able to export captions for translation as is possible in big brother Adobe Captivate and in Articulate Studio.

Articulate Studio Pro ‘13

What I Like

What I Don’t Like

1. You can import more audio and video formats than any of the other tools.

2. You can annotate videos that you import better than with the others.

3. Its Engage option gives you 20 interaction types, more than any of the others.

4. It lets you export all your captions for you to translate, after which you can import them.

1. Well, the price is kind of high, yes.

2. There is no way to hide the Next and Back buttons on the learner interface.

3. There are no good collaboration options in Studio.

4. You can’t publish to HTML5 alone. You will always get Flash as well.

iSpring Suite 7.1

What I Like

What I Don’t Like

1. The quiz player can be made transparent.

2. iSpring-published HTML5 presentations automatically detect the device (desktop, tablet, smartphone) and use the most appropriate player.

3. You can publish everything into one SWF file without the need for other files, making it easy to share your lesson with others.

1. There are only four built-in interactions.

2. The built-in audio editor lacks a feature common to the others, that of adding silence to a portion of the audio.

3. There are no built-in themes. You need to create those in PowerPoint.

Microsoft Mix

What I Like

What I Don’t Like

1. You can take screen shots and can create screen recordings directly in Mix.

2. You can upload mixes with quiz questions up to Microsoft’s free site.

3. You can use the analytics engine on the Mix site to get insight into your Mix lesson.

4. Mix lets you choose from several different video sizes when publishing.

5. It’s free!

1. While you can upload mixes with quiz questions up to Microsoft’s free site, for anything else, including SCORM-compliancy, you can only publish videos.

2. Mix is missing some of the features of the other tools here, such as characters, interactions, and other elements.

3. Don’t expect any free technical support for a free tool.

Snap by Lectora 1.4

What I Like

What I Don’t Like

1. The price is very reasonable.

2. You really get a very rich set of features for the price.

1. There used to be a set of interactions available under the label Empower, which you can still see in the ribbon options. However, those interactions are no longer available.

2. Currently, if you try to go to Help > Tutorial or Help > Community Forum, you will be taken to a nonexistent website.

3. I couldn’t see any HTML5 publishing option.

4. You can’t rearrange any of the quiz objects, such as the questions or answers. They are highly templated.

Zenler Studio Pro 4.3.59

What I Like

What I Don’t Like

1. Zenler has a built-in course builder. You can create new courses from a blank template, 16 different design templates, two course wizards, a scenario builder, and two basic lesson templates.

2. You can subdivide courses into chapters and the chapters into pages or slides.

3. Themes can be changed slide by slide.

4. You can import Word documents.

1. The built-in interactions won’t work on mobile devices.

2. Unlike the other tools, when you launch Zenler, it starts a new instance of PowerPoint rather than building on the PowerPoint you already have open.

3. Imported Word documents won’t work in Flash.


I hope you found this comparison useful. If you’d like the current and future versions of my chart, sign up here: